Farmers are being warned to keep vigilant after suspected arson attacks saw straw stacks worth more than £500,000 go up in smoke.
Police and the fire service are investigating after some 16,000 tonnes of bales were destroyed in a fire near Braughing, Hertfordshire. The fire broke out at 4.30am on 9 September, with fire fighters remaining on site for three days.
A spokesman for Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said crews were faced with a significant fire in a very large stack of baled hay and straw. The size was around 100m x 100m and 20m high.
“Fires like this are extremely challenging to control or extinguish, therefore as a result firefighters prioritised protecting the surrounding area and worked with both the farmer and local homeowners to ensure the fire did not spread.”
The spokesman added: “One of the most significant concerns was the smoke. The fire service has worked closely with colleagues in public health and the UK Health Security Agency using weather forecasts and carrying out plume modelling.”
In a separate incident, straw bales worth £34,000 were destroyed in Bedfordshire on 17 September. Bedfordshire Fire Service said farms were particularly vulnerable to arson due to their often isolated locations and extensive open boundaries.
While these vulnerabilities make it difficult to eliminate arson attacks on farms there are a number of measures that can be put in place to reduce that risk. These include storing siting stacks away from the road side and at least 10 metres apart.
Meanwhile, police appealed for witnesses after a suspected arson attack on a straw stack at Stuston, near Diss, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. Seven crews attended the blaze, which police said was set alight deliberately on 16 August.
Police said they wanted anyone who may have any suspicious activity to come forward. They said they were particularly interesting in talking to a man seen with a bicycle who may be able to help with inquiries.